Cyclists who shovelled Winnipeg bike lanes undeterred by risk of fines

Some Winnipeggers are undeterred by the possibility of fines for shovelling bike lanes.

It comes after a group of community members got together to remove ice and snow from two cycling routes.

Community members chipped and shovelled last week on a section of Westminster Avenue between Sherbrook Street and Maryland Street to clear a snow-covered bike lane.

Anthony Leong, who bikes year-round, was among those who took part. He said people weren’t satisfied with the city’s plow job.

“Really the core issue here is that we want to be able to feel safe biking,” Leong said in an interview.

Their goal was to prevent people from parking in the lane and to make the route safer.

On Monday, people gathered again to clear an icy section of the Arthur Street bike lane in the Exchange District, but an organizer was told by the city to review a section of bylaw and was cautioned against maintaining city infrastructure herself.

The City of Winnipeg said in an emailed statement Tuesday that while the city may issue fines, they aren’t being considered at this time.

“We ask that residents not clear snow from roadways, due to safety concerns. Rather, we ask that residents report any trouble spots using our online form or by contacting 311 so that crews can address them,” the email reads.

Leong said the possibility of fines won’t stop the group from tackling other problem spots in the future.

“I think everyone kind of understands the city fining us for this would be quite ridiculous and the idea that it’s unsafe is quite silly as well,” Leong said, suggesting that allowing snow and ice to build up in the lanes is what’s actually unsafe.

Matt Allard, a city councillor representing the St. Boniface ward, wants the fines scrapped.

He raised the issue Tuesday while appearing as a delegate during a public works committee meeting where he called on the city to do away with any fines that could be issued to people who clear snow from streets or bike paths.

“I don’t think they make sense,” Allard said of any possible fines. “I think it makes more sense for people to able to shovel the public right of way if that’s what they want to do.”

Allard pointed to some jurisdictions which require people to shovel the sidewalk in front of their homes.

While that’s not the case here, he worries such fines would send the wrong message.

“It’s not a bylaw requirement to do it like it is in other cities but some people out of courtesy do it for the neighbourhood or their neighbours,” Allard said.

Robert Dorrington walks regularly with his wife Linda Constantine to volunteer with a community organization in Osborne Village.

Constantine finds it difficult to navigate some sections of sidewalk and the couple disagrees with issuing fines for residents who take it upon themselves to shovel.

“I understand the city…it’s their job to clean the sidewalks but the people want to be safe for themselves and for friends and neighbours,” Dorrington said.

The community members who took to the streets to clear bike paths say they understand the city may be following its council-approved policy on snow clearing but they say the issue they have is the policy itself.

Leong said bike lanes and sidewalks should be cleared to bare pavement. 

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